Vihari, the man beyond numbers and contracts

India A and Andhra batsman Hanuma Vihari — who batted at No 3 and scored a hundred in the second four-day game against South Africa A at the Platinum Oval here — prefers to deliver when it matters the most, irrespective of personal milestones.

Hanuma Vihari at the Platinum Oval in Alur on Sunday.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

Batting position is a common dilemma among batters trying to present their case to the selectors from the junior level. Andhra batsman Hanuma Vihari, who held the No 3 position throughout his domestic cricketing career, had gone two steps down in the India A jersey.

But, in the second four-day game against South Africa A at the Platinum Oval here, he was promoted to his old spot. The move turned gold after the 24-year-old set a tent on the crease to bail India out of a tricky situation on the first day. Vihari held his ground for 413 minutes and ended up scoring 148 runs, getting out on the second day.

Amid a rain-delayed third day, Vihari looked relaxed as he spoke on the necessity to discard comfort zones to come out as a fighter. “No. 3 is the position I have been used to, but coming to India A, you definitely may not get the position you want, so I was going at No 5. When I had the opportunity to bat up the order in this game, I exactly knew what I had to do as I am familiar with the situation.

“I had to consolidate as we lost Mayank (Agarwal) early. It was a fresh wicket and it was doing a bit. There was moisture, so I knew I had to leave a lot of balls and be patient,” he told Sportstar on Sunday.

Compromise, luck and wait — these words pretty much sum up his career.

Vihari has been consistent in the domestic season, yet there was no IPL gig. He believes he would have played for India long ago had he been from Mumbai, Delhi or Karnataka — the domestic powerhouses.

Behind the soft-spoken Kakinada boy, there lies a man of steel. So, he moved to Andhra [from Hyderabad] to test his patience a bit further. “It made me more mature as a person. I knew I was taking a big risk changing sides. If I didn’t do well, people would talk. I knew I had to step up and had to do double the hard work and score double the runs (which he did).

Hanuma Vihari held his ground for 413 minutes and ended up scoring 148 runs, getting out on the second day.   -  G P Sampath Kumar

 

“It let me come out of my comfort zone. I have been playing in Hyderabad since the age of 16, but I had a different challenge coming to Andhra. They gave me captaincy straightaway and I felt responsible with the trust they had shown. I could bat longer and think more about the team. I gave the team more emphasis and talked more about winning in the Andhra dressing room,” he reasoned.

Jaw-dropping average

Among the current players, he holds the highest First-Class average — 59.45; even ahead of Steve Smith (57.27)! Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli stand at 54.71 and 54.44 respectively.

But numbers don’t feature in his goals. “I don’t think about how many runs I should get, I play according to the situation and what the team wants from me at that point of time. I try to play more with my mind than my skills. At this level, it is all about the mindset. A player is usually satisfied after scoring a hundred, but for me, situations are more important than personal milestones,” he added

As of now, Vihari is soaking in the diverse culture an Indian dressing room offers. “All guys (from various states) have their own individual preparations, so to see the different methods is exciting. Although it is India A, but to represent the country is a different feeling altogether,” he said.

Before the Proteas challenge, Vihari scored 410 runs in the tour of England which included a hundred (147) against West Indies A, and two half-centuries.